Every leader has had that kind of a day; nothing going right, surprises, unmet deadlines, unfulfilled promises, time constraints, as well as numerous other demands that space does not allow me to share in this writing. I hope you can see the picture. You know what I’m talking about; tough days that result in discouragement.
King David experienced a day like this during his time in Ziklag. To fully understand the big picture, you can read the story for yourself in 1 Samuel chapter 30. When David and his men returned to Ziklag, they found the city burned down and the women and children taken captive. The captives included both of David’s wives, Ahinoam and Abigail. Look carefully at David’s reaction in 1 Samuel 30:6, “And David was greatly distressed….” Understandably so. All you need to do is read the rest of this passage. His own men were threatening to stone David… as if losing his family is not enough. Yes, it was a tough day in Ziklag.
However, in the midst of his dilemma, David had a second response. Again in verse 6, “…and David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” Did I read that correctly? Yes, he encouraged himself. There are times when you will need to be your own encourager. No one will be around to say good job, slap you on the back, give you some praise, offer a lending hand or take you to lunch. It is during those times that you must find inner strength, courage, self-confidence, and trust in the Lord your God. That’s exactly what David did. He found encouragement in his God, and you can too.
Here is a good question for you to consider. What is the greatest thing you have to do as a leader? No doubt you are coming up with a good number of responses. There’s the most obvious: pray, fan the flame, read the word, live what you preach, trust, give, and serve; and these are all great. But let me submit an additional answer. The greatest thing that we as leaders must do is stay encouraged.
When discouragement parachutes into your life, it will likely come from three places:
- Circumstances – stuff happens and you can’t control or stop it
- People – somebody says something negative and our feelings hurt
- Ourselves – often my main source of discouragement
Elijah is one example of a leader who became so discouraged that he desired to die. You can read the account in 1 Kings 19. One day, the prophet is dueling idolaters and calling down fire from Heaven, while the next, he is in full retreat and praying to die. Circumstances, people, and self-discouragement show up in the story. Just as we often do, Elijah contributed to his own discouragement by making rash, unhealthy decisions. He blamed other people. He completely lost perspective. And he gave up too soon!
In James 5:17, we read, “Elijah was a human being, even as we are.” Encouraging! We are not alone when we hit the wall and experience a season of discouragement. It happens to the best of God’s servants. If you continue to follow the drama in Elijah’s life, you will see that God was not through with the prophet. Yes, Elijah got down just like we do. However, the secret is that he didn’t stay down. He got up, and accepted God’s assignment to preparing Elisha to be his successor.
So, how do you deal with discouragement? Discouragement is a killer. It is universal, contagious, and ultimately deadly. You can’t afford to stay discouraged. You will get down, but the key is not to stay there. King David knew that and encouraged himself in the Lord. Try it the next time you are discouraged. It works!
Bill Terry is the National Director for Men’s Ministries and the Assistant Director for Discipleship Ministries. Bill resides in Oklahoma City with his lovely wife Rita, where they will celebrate 44 years of marriage in 2015. He is the proud head of an extended family that includes two sons Gregory and Rodney, daughters-in-law Holly and Brec, granddaughters Grace, Annie, Emily and Elena and grandson Adam Gregory.